The conglomeration of liberal ‘journalists’ on social media appear to have found their new enemy. It is the ‘Hindu IT Cell’. From Rana Ayyub to Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire, the rage against the group is quite extreme.
And the outrage was only to be expected. It is based on the complaint filed by one of the group’s members that an FIR has been registered against Ayyub and her fundraising campaign. However, despite so much discussion about the group, there is very little that is known about the ‘Hindu IT Cell’.
Siddarth Varadarajan, for instance, was so enraged by the group that he appears to have forgotten that the FCRA laws apply to individuals also.
Rana Ayyub, too, accused the group of ‘hate and propaganda’ while defending herself from the allegations of fraud against her fundraiser.
But what is the ‘Hindu IT Cell’? Who are the people behind the group? What is their aim? These are the questions we will seek to provide an answer to here.
What is ‘Hindu IT Cell’?
In the summertime of 2020, with India locked down to decrease the spread of the Covid pandemic, the Narendra Modi government decided to bring some happiness into Indian homes: It got Doordarshan to replay two popular 1990s TV shows based on the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The minister for information and broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, declared the state broadcaster was doing so on popular demand.
As soon as Mahabharat and Ramayan started playing on Doordarshan, it became the most viewed program. On 16th April at 9 PM, the telecast of Ramayan created a word record. It managed to bag 77 million viewers in a single day. In fact, The first episode had crashed Doordarshan’s website and became the top searched item on Google India. It trended at the top on social media platform.
As was expected, the cabal went into a tizzy. There were deliberate attacks on Hindu sentiments and deities on social media. And while individuals on social media outraged and expressed rage, on ground, there was hardly any impact. It was then that Ramesh Solanki and Vikas Pandey, with 10 other men with the same ideology, decided to come together as “concerned Hindu volunteers” to protect the Gods. Through the internet. Using the force of law. In May 2020, they declared themselves as the “Hindu IT Cell”.
They vowed that those deliberately spewing venom against Hindus would be taken to task legally. Based on this motto, Hindu IT Cell has been working since its inception. The objective is to file legal complaints and pursue the case with the police to take action against social media users who have made “anti-Hindu” remarks. To do so, they work with a team of lawyers and “cyber volunteers” who are determined to impose a cost on hate speech.
Essentially, the Hindu IT Cell initiates its network of cyber volunteers to track down and identify those indulging in hate speech and then appropriate legal action is taken as per the law by taking the refuge of local police.
Who are the people behind the group?
Ramesh Solanki joined the Shiv Sena in 1998 and was associated with its IT cell for years. He left in 2019 when the Sena allied with their onetime ideological rivals, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, to form the government in Maharashtra.
He is a well-known Hindu Activist and a known leader across India who actively voices out for Hindu causes. He has played a vital role in the ban of TikTok from India and has spearheaded the demand for reforms in IT rules.
Vikas Pandey, another co-founder of Hindu IT Cell is a known Social Media Activist and Software Architect who is knowing for running successful social media campaigns in the 2014 general election where BJP got a landslide. Recently as a founder of a Hindu IT cell, he has got an FIR registered against journalist Rana Ayyub for allegedly duping funds in the name of COVID relief.
The Hindu IT Cell has alleged that Ayyub had illegally collected money through the online platform Ketto “in the name of charity”, adding that the journalist also received foreign funds without the government’s approval. The group alleged that a portion of the funds has still not been spent on beneficiaries, which the complainant claims to have confirmed with the online platform.
The charges against Ayyub were under section 4 (punishment for money laundering) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and section 66D of the Information Technology Act (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resources). Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code were also included in the FIR.
While Ayyub has claimed innocence, it is up to investigative agencies and the Courts to deliver the final verdict.